July 10, 1999 OAU Massacre; What Actually Happened

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The Obafemi Awolowo University massacre was a series of
shootings and murders which took place against students of
Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State,
Nigeria on Saturday, July 10, 1999. It resulted in the
deaths of five people and injuring of eleven, all of them
students at OAU.
It was perpetrated by an organized death squad of 40
members of the Black Axe Confraternity branch at the
university. They invaded the Awolowo Hall of the
university at around 4:30 A.M., clad in black trousers
and black T-shirts, their faces hidden by masks; they
carried and made use of shotguns and hatchets against
What led to the massacre

An account of what led to the massacre is given by Prof.
Roger Makanjuola’s book “Water Must Flow Uphill
(Adventures in University Administration)”. Prof. Roger
Makanjuola, following the massacre, became Vice Chairman
of the university and took an active role in both
investigating and punishing those from the university
involved in the murders.
Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes about an initial incident and
it’s aftermath that occurred in the weeks before the
murders: “On Saturday, 7 March 1999, a group of Black
Axe members held a meeting in Ife town. After the
meeting, they drove back to the campus. On the main road,
Road 1, leading into the campus, they were overtaken by
some students in another car. For whatever reason, they
were enraged and gave chase to the students. The students,
seeing them in pursuit, raced hastily to the car park
outside Angola Hall and ran into the adjacent Awolowo
Hall for safety. The Students’ Union, which had also
received information that secret cult members were
gathering in a house in the senior staff quarters, mobilised
in response to the incident. Led by George Iwilade, the
Secretary-General, a group of them drove to the house,
officially occupied by Mr. F.M. Mekoma, and forced their
way into the boys’ quarters. They found nine individuals
inside, eight of them students of the University, with a
submachine gun, a locally manufactured gun, an axe, a
bayonet and the black clothing and regalia of the Black Axe
cult. The University authorities were informed, and the
members of the secret cult were handed over to the Police.
They were held in police custody and taken to the Chief
Magistrate’s Court where two weeks later they were granted
Prof. Roger Makanjuola documents and raises concerns over
the way the matter was handled by both the police and
court system who broke from protocol, common sense and
destroyed evidence and how this led to the failure to be able
to prosecute the Black Axe members involved in the
incident. Prof. Roger Makanjuola writes: “The case was
heard on 31 March, and to the utmost amazement of
everyone, the Chief Magistrate discharged and acquitted the
arrested individuals. The students who had apprehended
the cult members were not called as witnesses. The
investigating police officer, Corporal Femi Adewoye,claimed that the witnesses could not be located and actually
stated in Court, “I tried to contact the complainants in this
case, all to no avail. To date, there is no complainant in
the case. Since all the accused persons denied the
allegations against them and there is no complainant, there
is no way the allegations can be proved.” This was the
submission of the prosecuting police officer! Usually, in
such cases, witness’ summons were served through the
University Administration but this did not happen. The
trial was concluded in two court appearances in eight days.
The Chief Magistrate also ordered that the submachine gun
be sent to the police armourer and the other exhibits be
destroyed, thus eliminating all the evidence, and making it
impossible to re-open the case. The Judicial Enquiry
recommended that the Magistrate be reported to the
Judicial Commission for appropriate disciplinary action.
Nothing came of this, as nothing came of all the other
recommendations of that Panel.”
Prof. Roger Makanjuola recalls following the failed
prosecution the Black Axe cultists returned to the university
to study. Much to the dismay and concern of fellow
students. Under pressure from students the university’s
authorities moved to suspend the cultists involved by
issuing a ‘release’ but failing to send the specific students
official letters informing them of their suspension.
Prof. Roger Makanjuola says: “Shortly afterwards, the
University was closed as a result of a student crisis. When
it re-opened three months later, the cult members returned
to the campus and were seen attending lectures. The
students raised an alarm once more. In response to this,
the University issued a release on 2 July re-affirming the
suspensions of the cult members. The letters of suspension
were dated 8 July and it is doubtful whether those affected
actually received them before the tragic events two days
In addition to the direct factors given in accounts by Prof.
Roger Makanjuola and others. It is also stated that factors
relating to creating the necessary favorable environment for
the massacre to having occurred also played a part. Such
factors include a general increase in campus violence due to
university and government employment and sponsorship of
campus cults. Peluola Adewale writes “campus cultism
had not always been pronouncedly violent until 1980s, and
this change coincided with a period when governments
started unleashing serious attacks on university education.
This began with the introduction of some outrageous
charges and later, in 1986, the Structural Adjustment
Programme (SAP), which have now been transformed into
a general neo-liberal economic programme. In order to
repress the resistance of students against commercialisation
of education and other anti-poor policies, the government
and university authorities employed the service of campus
cultists. The social background of elements who used to be
members of cult groups prepared them for such dastardly
activities. They were mostly from upper and middle-class
families, and therefore did not really have problems with
anti-poor policies of the government and university
management, for instance how to pay the contentious
charges being imposed on students. Today, there are
students from poor background joining cult groups. They
largely do so because campus cultism provides veritable
platform to raise money through extortion and other
criminal activities.”
Another factor is said to be relating to the university’s
administration at the time of the massacre. Vice Chancellor
Wale Omole said to have taken no action, aside from
perhaps protecting, known campus cultists. Peluola Adewale
states “his (Vice Chancellor Wale Omole) administration
created an enabling atmosphere for the attack. For the eight
years he spent in office, Omole did not show any
seriousness in fight against campus cultism, rather it was
commonplace for cultists apprehended by students to get
their way back to the university unscratched. While student
activists were expelled for leading students in various
demands, it was on record that no cultist was punished by
the Omole-led management.”
On the night of the 9th July 1999 a number of student
groups held a party at Obafemi Awolowo University. The
‘Mirror Online’ reports: “members of Kegites Club on the
campus, Man O’ war members, and various other student
leaders- both former and incumbent, gathered at the open
ground between Angola and Mozambique Halls.” Later in
the night many of the party-goers began occupying the
cafeteria of Awolowo Hall whilst others returned to their
halls of residence to sleep.
At between 3-3.30am (now 10th July 1999) a large
number of cultists (reported to be between 22 and 40) of
the Black Axe confraternity arrived to carry out a
preplanned assault on the university with the intention of
carrying out the assassinations of several prominent
members of the student union. Allegations that these
assassinations were sponsored by the university’s Vice
Chancellor Wale Omole remain to this day but it is
unclear if this is the case. It is said “one of the cultists,
Kazeem Bello, aka Kato, confessed that Wale Omole had a
hand in their July 10 dastardly operation.”
Upon arriving at the university the Black Axe cultists
“drove through the main gate and proceeded to the car park
next to the Tennis Courts in the Sports Center. They
disembarked there and went on foot along a bush path to
Awolowo Hall, where they violently interrupted the
gyration, firing guns and also wielding axes and
Although the order of the events that followed vary from
account to account (in terms of who was killed in what
order) it is clear that following the assault 4 people were
left dead, another died from gunshot wounds later, one
more survived from a gunshot wound and “Twenty-five
others received minor injuries, which were sustained during
the stampede out of the Awolowo Hall cafeteria and later
on during the attack.”
The Mirror Online reports “The victims, which included
the then Students’ Union Secretary General, George Yemi
Iwilade, (fondly called Afrika); 400 level medical
student, Eviano Ekelemu; a graduating student, Yemi
Ajiteru; 100-Level Philosophy student, Babatunde Oke, and
Ekpede Godfrey were gunned down by the “marauding
beasts” in Blocks 5 and 8, Awolowo Hall.” Prof. Roger
Makanjuola writes: “Tunde Oke was still alive but died on
the operating table. Four others, George Iwilade, Yemi
Ajiteru, Efe Ekede and Eviano Ekelemu, were brought in
dead. Eviano Ekelemu bled to death from gunshot wounds
to the groin and thigh. The other three died from gunshot
wounds to the head.
During the attack several accounts state the Black Axe
members were heard to be “shouting, “Legacy, come out!””
referring to the suspended Students’ Union President, Lanre
Adeleke. Additional targets of the attacks are described
also. Prof. Roger Makanjuola’s account states the same and
he also writes: “During the course of the incident, the
attackers also shouted the names of “Afrika”, George
Iwilade, and “Dexter”, the Chief of the Kegites, demanding
that they come out.”
Of the targets of the massacre Lanre Adeleke (Legacy)
managed to escape by jumping from a balcony after
hearing the gunfire. “Dexter”, the Chief of the Kegites, also
escaped unharmed. George Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-
General of the Students’ Union and a Law student was not
so lucky. Upon entering his room the Black Axe “shot him
immediately in the head. Then they smashed his head
with their axe to make sure he was dead”.
It is reported George Iwilade (Afrika) was the only
successfully assassinated victim. “Afrika, who was said to
have carried out the arrest (relating to the incident on
Saturday, 7 March 1999), was mercilessly butchered
while the other four were just unfortunate victims”
Prof. Roger Makanjuola gives the order of events as been:
“They first entered Room 184, where they shot and killed
Efe Ekede, a Part II Psychology student. In Room 230,
they shot Charles Ita, a Part II Law student. A group of
the attackers then shot Yemi Ajiteru, a Part II Religious
Studies student, through the head in the corridor outside
the Kegites’ headquarters. In Room 273, they found George
Iwilade (Afrika), the Secretary-General of the Students’
Union and a Law student, and shot him through the head,
along with another occupant, Tunde Oke, a Part 1 student
of Philosophy, who was shot in the abdomen. When the
attackers got to Room 271, the room allocated to the
suspended Students’ Union President, Lanre Adeleke
(Legacy), they found that he had escaped. Legacy was in
his room when he heard the first gun shots….. The band
of thugs proceeded to Fajuyi Hall on foot, where they shot
and killed one more student. That individual, Eviano
Ekelemo, a medical student, was certainly not a student
activist, but they shot him anyway.”. However the order in
which the victims were killed varies in various testimonies
by a number of witnesses.
Prof. Roger Makanjuola’s account of the Black Axe cultist’s
escape is”The murderers left Fajuyi Hall on foot and went
through the bush path behind the Hall back to their
vehicles. They drove to the Students’ Union building,
which they ransacked. They returned to their vehicles and
drove out of the University through the main gate. The
security staff, having heard gunfire, fled for their lives.
Thus the exit of the marauding thugs was unchallenged.”

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